In a plea bargain, Bassem Tamimi was sentenced to four months in prison, ordered to pay a fine of NIS 5,000, and given an additional three-year suspended sentence. Just recently having completed a 13-month prison stint, he was arrested last month while taking part in a protest at a settlement supermarket.
By Alon Aviram
Ofer Military Prison — A series of military courts operate inside a row of cramped and dilapidated cabins. An Israeli flag hung from the ceiling overlooking a line of seated and shackled defendants. Courtroom staff and defendants looked equally bored, both by the tedious bureaucratic processes at hand, and with 99.74 percent of all trials in Israeli military courts ending with a conviction, they were probably aware of the outcome. People wandered in and out, disrupting any fleeting sense of an orderly courtroom environment. The translator slouched on an office chair, every so often forgetting to translate the judge and lawyers from Hebrew in to Arabic for the defendants. Bassem Tamimi, 45, father of four, a school teacher and a grassroots protest organizer from the village of Nabi Saleh, was ordered to stand before the military clad judge.
Arrested on October 24 during a protest action at a branch of Rami Levy, a Jewish-owned supermarket chain, Tamimi stood accused of illegal assembly, interfering with police work and breaching a suspended sentence. Rather than risk being remanded during what would likely become a lengthy trial, Tamimi’s defense lawyer, Neri Ramati, reached a plea bargain on his behalf with the prosecution. The judge approved the agreement, and sentenced Tamimi to a total of four months in prison, ordered him to pay a fine of NIS 5,000, and imposed on him an additional three year suspended sentence. Despite the verdict, Tamimi occasionally turned to smile at activists who attended the hearing, and when it ended, he raised his hand in a V sign for victory.
Bassem Tamimi has been detained by Israeli authorities 13 times, at one point spending more than three years in administrative detention without trial. In 1993, as a result of an interrogation by the Israeli Shin Bet, Tamimi was left unconscious for eight days and required surgery for a brain injury. Following a demonstration on March 24, 2011, against the expropriation of land belonging to his village of Nabi Saleh by a neighboring Jewish settlement, he spent 13 months in prison.
Tamimi is recognized internationally for his work in organizing peaceful protests against the encroachment onto Palestinian lands by Israeli settlers. The European Union has described him as a “human rights defender,” and Amnesty International has demanded his release as a “prisoner of conscience.”